Routine Cell Phone Activity And Exposure To Sext Messages: Extending The Generality Of Routine Activity Theory And Exploring The Etiology Of A Risky Teenage Behavior

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Cathy Marcum, Associate Professor and Curriculum Coordinator (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: Increased cell phone use among adolescents has created new opportunities for deviance and victimization in recent years. One teenage cell phone-based behavior that has received increased attention from a variety of sources including public health researchers, parents, and law enforcement is “sexting” (i.e., a minor receiving sexually explicit photos or videos of another adolescent or adult via cell phone or sending such material to another teenager). Research has revealed that sexting is a risky form of adolescent deviance that is linked with a host of potential negative health consequences (e.g., risky sexual behavior and drug use) and legal ramifications. Despite the importance of the issue, research exploring the risk factors associated with exposure to sexts is virtually nonexistent. Using telephone interview data from a representative sample of adolescents aged 12 to 17 years, the present study applies routine activity theory to explain the receiving of sexts. The results confirm expectations that both exposure-based (e.g., use of a cell phone during school hours) and supervision-based (i.e., school cell phone rules and family cell phone plan) routine cell phone activities are associated with receiving sexts. Overall, the study extends the generality of routine activity theory to teenage sexting, highlights the utility of examining domain-specific routine activity indicators, and offers one of the first theoretically informed analyses concerning the factors associated with adolescent sexting.

Additional Information

Wolfe, S. E., Marcum, C. D., Higgins, G. E., & Ricketts, M. L. (2016). Routine Cell Phone Activity and Exposure to Sext Messages: Extending the Generality of Routine Activity Theory and Exploring the Etiology of a Risky Teenage Behavior. Crime & Delinquency, 62(5), 614–644. Publisher version of record available at:
Language: English
Date: 2016
sexting, routine activity, cell phone use, adolescence

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